Violent history and interest in art

MICHAEL Stone was born on April 2, 1955, in Birmingham His mother left his father when he was five months old and he went to live with his father’s sister in Ballyhalbert, Co Down.

He was brought up on the working-class loyalist estate the Braniel in east Belfast with five siblings.

His nickname at Lisnasharragh High School, George Best’s old school, was “Flint”, which he claimed was because of the tough attitude which regularly had him thrown out of class.

From the age of 14 he trained as a cadet soldier.

He worked as a “hammer boy” in the blacksmith’s shop at the Harland & Wolff shipyard and was forced to leave work after tackling a “bully” in the toilets. He set fire to his victim’s hair with a lighter, kneed him in the stomach and then kicked him while he was on the ground.

By age 16 he had joined the UDA and was trained by former UDA leader Tommy Herron, who taught him to kill with a punch to the heart. Stone passed his initiation by shooting a dog.

In March 1988 he launched the Milltown cemetery gun and grenade attack at a republican funeral, for which he gained three murder convictions.

When charged, Stone said he was responding to the IRA’s “slaughter of innocents”. The bullet-proof vest he wore was auctioned for £10,000 in a loyalist club in Scotland.

Sentenced to 684 years behind bars he developed a love of Marxist literature and painting avant garde art.

He was freed on July 24, 2000, under the Good Friday Agreement. He lived with his girlfriend, Suzanne Cooper, in east Belfast, England, France and Spain. At one stage they bought each other body armour for Christmas.

A father of nine from two previous marriages and grandfather of three, at home he kept seven dogs and tanks of tropical fish behind armoured glass.

In November 2006 he was arrested after he tried to attack Parliament Buildings in Stormont, but later claimed it was “performance art”.

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